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‘Holi Moli’ will bring Hindu festival of color to Rutgers

About 1,800 students playfully emptied packets of powdered flower petals on themselves, their friends and strangers Friday afternoon for Rutgers’ “Holi Moli,” on the Livingston campus to celebrate the Hindu tradition, Holi. Holi, also known as the “Festival of Colors” or the “Festival of Love,” is a spring celebration widely celebrated in areas of South Asia and is meant to welcome the arrival of spring and the end of winter, as well as the triumph of good over evil. MICHELLE KLEJMONT / MANAGING EDITOR – Photo by Michelle Klejmont

On Friday, April 14, the Rutgers Hindu Students Council (HSC) will bring a cultural color war to the Banks as a way to celebrate Holi at Rutgers.

Many people only associate the Hindu festival of colors with the excitement of throwing color powder on a sunny spring day, but there is a whole history behind the holiday that is often forgotten about.

Most people do not realize that Holi occurs at the same time — at the beginning of spring — every year for a reason. For hundreds of years, Hindu people celebrated Holi as an agricultural festival.

But before that, the festival of color was celebrated to recognize the achievements of Prahlad, a character in Hindu mythology, son of Hiranyakashipu, an evil king. This legend, one of many tales used to describe the purpose of Holi, says that Prahlad was so determined to worship the god Vishnu that he sat on a wooden pyre as a challenge to his father.

While his father was sure that Prahlad would burn to death and his aunt Holika would be immune to the fire, Prahlad happened to survive while his aunt burned on the pyre, supposedly because Prahlad’s faith in Vishnu was strong enough.

This explains the annual bonfire ritual that Hindus often practice, as a way to commemorate the pyre burning Holika.

Over the years, Holi has transformed more into a celebration of the coming of spring, rather than a historical commemoration. Powdered color and water are typical at Holi festivals to recognize the colors and brightness of spring and the arriving agricultural season.

HSC’s annual “Holi Moli” event will be on Livingston Campus this year with live music, performances and free powdered colors for Rutgers students. The celebration is meant to mimic the authenticity of the festival in India.

“I spent the first seven years of my life in India, so (it was there that) I saw how real Holi was played and what it meant to the people, culturally how important it was,” said School of Arts and Sciences junior Deveshwar Singh, treasurer of HSC. “So I’m trying to take that idea and bring it to Holi here at Rutgers.”

Holi is celebrated internationally now with events in Australia, Canada, Bangladesh, Guyana, as well as celebrations in most major U.S. cities.

“The event itself means that a lot of different people are coming together. It’s not just Indian people who come and enjoy Holi. There are a lot of people of different cultures who enjoy (the) colors as well. I want them to take away that Holi in itself is not just a religious holiday for Hindus,” Singh said.

The HSC organize around four events annually at Rutgers, bringing awareness of the Hindu religion to Rutgers, as well as bringing Indian cultural awareness, in fun and interactive ways.

“I want (students) to come out and have a good time because this is right around the time of finals,” Singh said. “If you want to come out ... bring your friends along, it’s just a good time!”

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